Friday, September 12, 2008

The Day the Sun Comes Out

I live in NYC.  It has been my home off and on for a long time but there was a time, in between, when I lived in Seattle, WA.  Without fail whenever I mention this to people, they always ask if it's true that it rains all the time or if the weather is really that bad.  And I always answer, yes, it is. Over the years my answer has taken on a new life, a story of it's own.  I now say, "Yes, it really is that bad. It rains all the time.  Every day it is gray, foggy, rainy or at least misty and cold.  Even in the summer.  Except for one magical day when the sun comes out.  And that day is August 25th. It's actually been declared a holiday in Seattle.  Everyone takes off of work and we all go to Denny Blaine beach to swim in Lake Washington.  We drink rose and champagne.  We eat oysters and float on rafts.  Later people celebrate by having dinner parties.  In my group, we all end up over Bryan and Sinclair's house for dinner and wine and that is always repleat with crazy stories, Drunken Pilates and a Dance-Off to Dolly Parton or ABBA.  So much fun."  

Now, people might laugh it off as a great story.  And true, August 25th was originally my made up day to represent the manifestation of all of my favorite moments in Seattle combined with my anger over how cold and yucky it is there most of the year.  But, I'm here to tell you that I actually willed the magic of August 25th into existence.  And now it truly is the day the sun comes out!  Here's how the magic happened:

One day, getting home late from the restaurant I open my mail and received a supponea to be at a lawsuit mediation (too long of a story, even for me) in Seattle on August 26th.  I laughed a little to myself because I knew that meant I was going to be there at least by the 25th and that's my day I always talk about.  I became even more thrilled to learn that my good friend Baby Jo was also going to be visiting friends in Seattle at the exact same time and became absolutely ecstatic when I learned that there would, indeed, be a grand ol' dinner party at the house of Bryan and Sinclair on what day?  You got it, August 25th.  Hilarious!  But wait, there's more...

My day of magic began quite early.  I woke in my friend Angie's bed...which is not unlike a princess' bed from fairy tale.  It is densely plush and soft.  Her room is dark and warm.  And as I woke and wasn't quite sure exactly where I was for a moment, I quietly considered doing one of those therapies that recreate the experience of being in the womb.  I gave that thought up pretty quickly. But I had felt I had come to understand my good friend Angie just a little bit better. Angie made us some coffee and we talked and talked before she drove me off to meet the ex-husband for coffee.  I won't go into my coffee date here except to tell you that if you are divorced and you are on remotely friendly terms with your ex, I strongly encourage you to, at least once have coffee or lunch with him/her.  You learn so much about yourself and your journey in life.  After coffee I find myself for reasons unexplainable, in this blog, walking around Seattle's fabulous Convention Center area and while dodging the rain drops by hiding under a storefront awning and talking on the phone, I make arrangements to meet Schmoo and Spencer at the restaurant Matt's in the Market for lunch.  So, I head to the Seattle's very famous Public Market for lunch.  I have some time to spare so I stroll about taking pictures of odd things like "decoupage graffiti" (which I thought was quite brilliant an idea) and rotating heads of wigs at the wig shop.  Then Schmoo calls to find out exactly where I am and all I can say is "on the corner of somewhere and f*cked up"  so we decide to meet at the restaurant and I get us a table.  During our lunch, which is full of stories and laughs rose and coffee and some of my most brilliant comedic timing to date, Schmoo looks outside at the Market, which also over looks the water, and suddenly exclaims "You did it, you did it!  You made the sun come out and it's August 25th!"  And, indeed, the sun was out.  It shone through the big glass windows on our arms and faces as we finished our coffee and headed out back to Angie's house. 

Sidebar: My two favorite quotes of this afternoon so far? 1) While sitting in between Schmoo and myself in the truck and holding the pies for dinner Spencer says; "I've got a stick in my crotch and cream pies on my lap, it's everything I've ever wanted.  Why don't you take a picture of this Carolyn?" and 2) while sitting on her couch watching Battlestar Gallatica as Baby Jo and I got ready; "Gross.  There are girls putting on makeup in my house."

Now on to dinner...I love Bryan and Sinclair's house.  Everyone does.  It is one of those places that makes you feel completely comfortable the second you are there.  It is beautiful, stylish, and gracious just like them.  And a dinner party with them is always on my must-do list when I visit Seattle.  Dinner parties are different in Seattle than in NYC.  People are less hectic and people are barefoot.  I always say I don't miss Seattle, I miss the dinner parties.  I miss my friends.  Seattle and I never really got along so well.  We were like a bad relationship.  It was doomed from the start but I really did try to make it work.  Eventually our fundamental differences became too glaring and I had to move back to NYC.  See, I have my own personal holy trinity that I was not willing to let go of (dresses, highheels, and waxing) and these things constantly clashed against the backdrop of fleece, sandals, and unwanted bodyhair in sad, little rainy Seattle.  But, my friends are pretty great.  

We walk in to see the usual sights.  Mi Suk and Bryan are prepping.  Sinclair, Laura, and Schmoo are all outside by the grill drinking rose.  Angie, Baby Jo and I start frantically looking for wine.  There is a table full of beautiful bites of food...heirloom tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, prosciutto, olives, crostini.  On the grill were Dungeness Crab, Lamb, red carrots.  We were drinking champagne, rose and chablis.  Later drinking rhone.  Later drinking  vintage Chateauneuf du Pape.  Vieux Telegraphe.  1995.  We had such a beautiful dinner. And for dessert we enjoyed the coconut cream pies from Spencer's lap and Mary made peach cobbler with the peaches Baby Jo brought from South Carolina.  Mi Suk toasted the gents for hosting us, as always, and putting so much thought and work into the dinner.  More friends kept stopping by for a bite to eat or a glass of wine to say hello or to share a story.  Baby Jo and I remarked how cool everyone at the table was, how fortunate we felt we were.  

It didn't take long for the dinner party to disintegrate into something we lovingly call "Drunk Pilates". These parties are famous for it.  I am not even kidding a little. We literally all start doing pilates and yoga, tipsy.  No one has the same balance or strength they have while sober so it's quite hilarious.  We usually get the few who don't normally do these exercises involved and we fall down and laugh.  This then is quickly followed by more party music and dancing.  This time it was Dolly Parton.  Madonna came on later.  We dance, we sing, we laugh, we drink some more.  

Eventually, people start to head out.  It is a Monday night, after all.  Some people have to get up early.  I have to get up early.  Angie and I head out...completely drunk.  We drive...completely drunk...for the one block to her house and go to bed. We actually hit a car while parking and Angie parked nowhere near the curb.  Not pretty.  Oh well.  I love Angie for many reasons.  One of them is that while I am a complete hyper-active spaz she is so mellow.  She is one of those people who loves to lie under the blankets and read and curl up and sleep.  I am one of those people who never got out of that stage of "do I have to go to bed?"  Angie has to tell me to go to to bed.  Or to take a nap.  Or to calm down.  It's sweet.  And true.  I probably would have stayed up and had another drink or two if she hadn't made me go to sleep.  

Ah, the party was over.  But, it was a success.  The whole day was a success.  And now, I needed to sleep. Well, I had court in the morning anyways.  And I would  need a fresh batch of magic for that so I needed to get some rest.  I lay my magic wand down next to me for safekeeping. I had done what I came to do.  I got to spend August 25th almost exactly how I had envisioned it. And I had done it, I made the sun come out...for one magical day, August 25th.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Voulez-vous "Kusshi" avec moi?

Awww, Kusshi oysters.  Have you ever had them?  Now, I love oysters. Really, I love them.  If you're ever sitting across from me at a table and you've been talking awhile and notice that perhaps I'm not listening, that I seem to have that far-off glance to nowheresville; it is probably because I'm thinking of oysters.  And Champagne.  Sorry, it's true.

Oysters are my island food.  What's yours?  You know, that game you play when it's a slow night at your restaurant and you're all hanging around waiting for customers.  If you could only bring one food to a deserted island with you and had to eat that and nothing else forever, what would it be?  Oh, you don't play that game?  You must work in a different field. 

You probably play a different version like, who would you rather screw?  Or if you could only take one celebrity to the island who would it be?  You see, in the restaurant industry; we're a different breed.  We work at night, we work around booze and food in a perpetual party atmosphere, we are overly sexualized, and our boundaries get blurred nightly.  Sex or at least the flirtation of sex is around all the time. Sex is a given.  So instead, food becomes our porn. And Chefs are the stars. The more exotic and pleasurable the item, the better.  The more unique and hard to get, all the more exciting.

In my time, I've worked in several restaurants that serve things like Milt (the male "roe" or "sperm sack" of cod).  Hearts, stomach parts, brains, feet, liver are all fair game, of course; fried pig's ears and tails...heck I ate the whole head with my friend Austin one night.  

But even being surrounded by all this uniqueness, I still find the oyster the most alluring, mysterious, and sexy of all the foods.  I love that we eat them alive.  I eat mine completely raw, naked,  usually forgoing any lemon juice, tobasco, or mignonette because I get a certain pleasure out of knowing that it is my teeth sinking into it's body that is actually killing it while I eat it.  Basic knowledge of chemistry would illustrate that adding lemon juice is a form of curing, therefore cooking the oyster, ending it's blissful state of raw.  And even to look at it, lying there quivering and glistening in its shell you begin to understand why one of your best friends is a lesbian.

I recently made a trip to Seattle, WA.  Whenever I'm in Seattle, I'm sure of a few things.  I'm going to be ridiculously jacked up on caffeine, because there really isn't anything else to do but escape the rain in a coffee shop.  And I'm going to eat a lot of great seafood with my friends. But, what I didn't expect was to have an oyster I had never eaten before!  

Somehow the magic of the Kusshi oyster from nearby British Columbia had elluded me.  My last night in Seattle, I had dinner at Spring Hill.  A newly reviewed restaurant in West Seattle. The food, in a word, was amazing. The wine list, all Washington, needs help.  As most of you know, I know my American wines...and I'm ok with the kitsch factor of a gimmick wine list.  Just do it right.  But, I was with my favorite person in the world drinking Billecart-Salmon brut rose (not from Washington) followed by Michel Chapoutier's rose (not from Washington) and we enjoyed those just fine all while laughing hysterically and exchanging jokes while we ate our Duck Egg raviolo, our steak two ways (hot and cold), our Cold Ciopino, and of course our oysters.  The magic may have occurred in the oysters themselves or it may have lived in the mignonette.  I know, I said I eat them naked but I have to tell you...their mignonette is made from beer hops and it's delicious.  

I had a few other great meals while in Seattle this past visit.  I'm sure I'll be writing about them because there are certainly some good stories.  But my favorite meal was at Spring Hill. Everything about my night was perfect, like out of a movie.  Maybe it was the company, maybe it was the oysters, heck; maybe it was maybelline.  Whatever it was I know one thing, it was magical and amazing.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mantra for Monday, Sept. 8

Breathe Carolyn.  Don't panic.  Whatever you do, do not panic.  It'll be okay.  There are other roses.  There are other wines and things to drink.  And anyways, isn't it almost the end of rose season?  You don't want to be one of "those people" do you?  One of "those people" who drink the "wrong wine" because they don't have the palate to move on to the next season's wine.  No, you're not that girl.  I know, it's just hard for you to transition out of rose season.  Ok, ok...I hear you.  You do still have a few more weeks to drink pink.  But you do have to come to terms with the fact that you just drank your last bottle of Domaine de Fontsainte rose.  It's true sweetie, it's gone.  And you won't be able to have any more until next year.  And just think,  you were able to hoarde so much of it for yourself anyways.  You probably drank more of it than anyone else in the city this summer.  That feels good, right? Plus, you knew this day would come.  You didn't even think it would last you as long as it did.  You always panic a little when you pick up highly allocated wines that are difficult for anyone to get their grubby little paws onto but you did know that whatever you had of this was going to be it,  right?  They did tell you that there was much less of it made this year.  And you did have to fight to get as much of it as you did.  Every time you put a bottle of it in the fridge you thought of exactly how much you had left, how much was hiding in your closet. Well, last night you did it.  You opened the last bottle.  You drank it by yourself while watching the first season of Mad Men, you ate beets and blue cheese...all perfect little things for this wine.  And you thought to yourself:  "if John McCain wins, I am moving to France immediately!"  Ahhh, good plan.  You are a genius, albeit a pickled one....marinated in french rose!  You know what?  You should be proud of yourself Carolyn.  You actually made it last most of rose season.  You should congratulate yourself and celebrate.  You should march out at once to the nearest wine are surrounded by them and find another rose and pour some on the floor for your homies or at least for your main homie, Domaine de Fontsainte. 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Food therapy

What a funny friendship!  Well, no I take it back.  It's an awesome friendship.  It's the middle of the afternoon I had just come back from the grocery store.  It's a Sunday.  It's so hot outside but an absolutely beautiful day.  And here I am putting my just-purchased food away.  That's my favorite part of grocery shopping is putting it all away.  It not only gives me a special feeling of abundance to have food in the cabinets and in the fridge it's also because I like the little surprises I find in the bags.  I know, I know.  I just bought these things, how could I be surprised by any of them.  But seriously, when I'm at the store I do buy some necessities and then I start picking up things that attract me.  I shop by passion.  What am I in the mood for right this second?  What looks pretty?  What looks delicious and fresh?  And, now I find myself wanting a snack because I'm putting away the last of the summer corn and heirloom tomatoes in all their grotesque beauty. I'm handling avocados and greens, snacks for later, waters in pretty bottles, juices with curing aides added, and sausages and pates galore!  Fruit, coffee, and chocolate.  I always buy a dark chocolate bar right as I get to the counter to pay.  So, putting my foods away, the phone rings and it's Marisa!  She is also enjoying the beauty of this day...sitting on her patio in the sun drinking sparkling wine.  She tells me she's hungry.  I say, me too.  She's preparing herself a snack at the same time as I.  Then we each sit down and while other girls might talk about what they just picked up at the Barney's wherehouse sale, she and I discuss the snacks and beverages we're having with supreme excitement.  I tell her I've just tossed a little locally grown spinach and heirloom tomatoes and bacon and couscous left over from the morning adding fresh herbs and olive oil...squeeze of lemon and seasalt all while drinking a pilsner...very sunday afternoon.  It's my pre-drinking, drink.  Beer doesn't count as a drink, in my book.  Marisa has cobbled together toasted baguette and goat's cheese with a little basil, olive oil, salt. "I'm eating the most delicious snack ever!", she says.  And she's still drinking sparkling wine, from Greece.  Which prompts us to discuss how great Greece is, how they gave us so much and we're lucky to have learned from them.  I also think I'm lucky to have friends who love food and booze as much as I.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pierre and his very special friend Robert

The great thing about french names is that they sometimes rhyme.  Say it with me...Pierre...Robert.  If you can't speak with a french accent don't worry.  I'll teach you.  It's easy. Grab a pen or pencil and hold it vertically in front of your face, resting it on the end of your nose and very close to your lips.  When you speak, try not to move your jaw very much and pout your lips as much as possible.  If your lips end up grazing (like a soft kiss) the pencil, then you are speaking with a french accent.  Easy. Breezy.  Covergirl.  Now try it again.  Pierre-Robert.

Pierre-Robert is the best cheese in the universe.  Period.  Well, maybe there's some room for others.  It is at least, one of my favorite cheeses.  It's a triple cream, cow's milk cheese from's spreadable, salty, and delicious.  Max Macalman in "The Cheese Plate" wrote the story of Pierre and his special life long friend, Robert, who decided to make this cheese.  Apparently Max feels the perfect wine pairing for Pierre-Robert is a riesling but he quoted the special cheese making friends as saying they feel the perfect wine pairing for their cheese is Champagne.  I read that book many years ago and thought it sounded perfect. I read it out loud to Marisa. She thought it sounded perfect too.  We tried it.  It was perfect!  I'm pretty sure we tried it with a Duval-Leroy rose as the restaurant we worked at the time ( had both Pierre-Robert cheese and Duval-Leroy Champagne.  But that was a long time ago. Yesterday however...

Negroamaro and I arrived at Cafe Fresca carrying a clothing store bag full of wine.  It's a bring your own type of joint.  There's also only one table and on that table is a plate of cheese and a sliced baguette.  Next to the plate is a bowl of chips...genius.  It's the little things that make Cafe Fresca special.  It's not the new art work, which we were told was done by a crippled junkie, it's not the early spring view of rocks and gravel in a barren garden, I would say it's the service but sometimes you end up serving yourself and that's okay too.  But it is the fact that you can sit there and tell really great stories about Pierre-Robert cheese and drink three bottles of champagne and no one bothers you at all.  Cafe Fresca is what we call Marisa's back yard.

Marisa and I don't even call the cheese Pierre-Robert anymore.  We always refer to it as Pierre and his very special friend Robert.  And we always have it with Champagne.  Hey, it's their suggestion! We began with Pehu-Simmonet Rose then moved on to Egly-Ouriet Brut, then to Guy Larmandier Blanc de Blancs.  It was happenstance that we ended up going from 100% pinot noir, to a blend, then finally to 100% chardonnay.  The Brut was the winning combo.  But, to be fair we chugged the blanc de blancs as our car was waiting for us outside and we really didn't have any cheese left.  

The true testament of the greatness of the combination of the Pierre-Robert and Champagne isn't even that we couldn't stop talking about it the whole time we were consuming them. It isn't the fact that the story of Pierre and Robert reminded Negroamaro about an old Haitian woman who cleans rooms at the hotel who can tell who stays in a room just by smelling when she first walks in.  Apparently she once walked in and took a deep breath and said in a thick accent (you might want to grab your pencil for this trick again) they are two men, they are french, and they are gay.  And it turned out that there was a pile of condoms in between the bed, two separate suitcases filled with men's clothing and Air France flight stickers all over everything! The testament to the power of the combo is that when we first sat down to snack and toast, Marisa asked if we thought it was weird that she walked a mile to get the cheese. I said no.  I can see it happening.  Marisa's a little obsessive sometimes, so am I.  I would have done the same thing.  Sometimes I walk really far to get to a certain wine shop or ribs.  I would totally do it for cheese.  Lucky for me, I have a remarkable cheese shop called Blue Apron just a few blocks from me.